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spin cycle

February 23, 2010
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Here’s one of the problems with living in Los Angeles.  In a place where it is summer at least ten months out of the year and everyone is worried about how they look in a swimsuit, it was perhaps unavoidable that we have become epicenter of the trendy workout.  We are the city that brought you such demented inventions as Tae-Bo, Bikram yoga, and cardio barre.  Most of these are based on the theory that in order to be fit, you should pay a lot of money to jump around in very crowded, very overheated room, while music is played so loudly that your brain begins to wallpaper the interior of your skull, and some woman with abs like a topographical map of the Himalayas shouts at you through a headset.  I’m sorry to say that the rest of the country has followed where Los Angeles has led, and all of these methods have become wildly, inexplicably popular.  Which brings us to our latest bit of fitness insanity:  spinning.

racing, originally uploaded by kate at yr own risk.

I should clarify up front that I’m not at all trendy about these things.  I tend to pass out in overheated rooms, and am in general petrified of all sports equipment that I don’t know how to use — have, in fact, stayed away from strength-training machines for years for this very reason.  Spinning bikes also fall into this category.  The treadmill, on the other hand, has about three buttons:  Go, Go Faster, and Stop.  I love the treadmill.

However.  I have a coworker — the kind of girl who eats tofu with unalloyed enthusiasm, and who is consequently in far better shape than I will ever be — who goes to the same gym that I do.  She was telling me not long ago about these fancy new spinning bicycles the gym had just installed.  They have a built-in flatscreen, and a virtual trainer who guides you through the workout, she said.  It’s just like taking a spin class, she said, only you do it on your own time and you don’t have to pay $23 an hour.

So a few nights ago, I’m wandering around my gym and there are the bikes, in all their flatscreen glory.  I’m feeling adventurous and incautious.  I select one, and prepare to look like Elizabeth Hurley.

I begin by spending several confused minutes attempting to jam my feet into the little cages where they are supposed to go.  My shoes are too big, or my feet are too fat, or something.  (I am later told that, in order to spin properly, you must have spinning shoes.  This is another standard feature of the LA fitness craze:  It’s not really trendy unless you have to buy a whole new closetful of equipment to do it.)   Meanwhile, the guy next to me is whizzing away on his own bicycle as if he had one in the womb.  He watches my struggle out of the corner of his eye, and wisely decides to pretend I’m not there.

Having negotiated at least the toes of my sneakers into position, I plug in my headphones and poke a few buttons, experimentally.  The flatscreen is like a Wii Fit attached to the bike:  It plays soothing music at you, and it will tell you your heart rate, your speed, your calories burned, possibly the answers to complex calculus problems.  I press a few more buttons.  Ooooh.  Shiny.

My virtual trainer appears, bearing a strong resemblance to Carson Kressley.  I’m expecting him to berate me about my outfit (best left undescribed; I wear gym clothes from a line called “USC tee shirts that were free in 2004.”).  Instead, pseudoCarson begins to demonstrate how I should be pedaling, encouraging me to “breathe, relax,” and then, to “just really become at one with the bike.”  I say “Oh, shut up, Carson” to the screen before I can help myself.  The guy next to me looks over involuntarily, and then returns to focusing on his own screen as if he is receiving top-secret dispatches from Mars.

I pedal a little more.  The pedaling part is not bad.  What is bad is the fact that the seat of this thing is giving me the least gentle pelvic exam of my life.  Is this how it’s supposed to feel?  Perhaps my seat is not adjusted properly — there seem to be some levers sticking out of it at the back.  I get off the bike and walk around it, once.  Then I study my fellow spinners, thinking that maybe they know something I don’t.  The guy next to me is the closest.   Too late, I realize that this man is a complete stranger, and I am standing a mere foot behind him, regarding his posterior with interest.   He has noticed me doing this.

I beeline back into position and begin pedaling at a speed that would put Lance Armstrong to shame.  The seat still feels all kinds of wrong.  There is, however, a big red knob right under the handlebars.  It has a vague drawing on it, kind of a cluster of wavy lines.  This reminds me primarily of a vomiting octopus, although presumably that is not what the manufacturer had in mind.  Maybe it adjusts the seat.  Hopeful, I twist it vigorously.

Moments later, I regain consciousness to find that I have performed a violent faceplant into psuedoCarson.  It turns out that the red knob does not adjust the seat – it adjusts the resistance in the pedals.  When you twist it all the way to the right, the pedals lock and then you flail forward wildly, in a remarkably exact rendition of the vomiting octopus.

The man next to me decides, at this point, that his workout has been quite adequate and leaves.  I want to tell him this is unnecessary, as I myself am hastening back towards my trusty treadmill, but as I get off the bike I forget that my headphones are still plugged into it.  My dismount therefore involves rather a lot of pirouetting and gagging, and I am not quite able to encourage him to stay.

And so, to the people of America, I say:  Would you QUIT going for this kind of crap?  Just buy a pair of sneakers and go for a run, huh?  The uncool and the uncoordinated among us will thank you.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. February 25, 2010 6:22 pm

    This is why I go to Curves.

  2. David permalink
    February 27, 2010 7:31 pm

    Let me quote myself….”Whenever I get the urge to exercise, I lay down promptly until it goes away !” Much like the famous Winston Churchill line. When asked about the secret to good health he said, “I drink, smoke and never exercise.”

  3. Suranee permalink
    May 21, 2010 12:19 pm

    HAHAHAHA! i love reading things you write! (i am aware that my sentence resembles that of a third grader’s when posted next to your wonderful scribbles, but i had to share) 🙂

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